Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Weighing in to a heavy debate

I'm seeing quite a few comments flying around the Twitterverse at the minute and it's making me put fingers to keys. I've debated quite a bit over whether to blog on this topic, but I have decided that I need to say my piece, in the spirit of education rather than aggression.
There's been quite a few comments from people that I follow over the last few days about obesity, and the general view of 'fat' people as being lazy and disgusting and having no dignity. As my few blog readers will remember, I wrote a recent post about my own weight loss following hypnotherapy, and how I'm steadily and healthily losing weight and feeling good about myself now. I never intended this to be a blog about weight or weight loss, but it seems to be coming up again so here I go.
I guess I want to make a few points. One, if you know that some of your followers are overweight or obese, why would you make a comment about it being disgusting? Would you say this to their face at a party? Do you like them, care about their health? And what do you understand about their own individual situation that makes you feel best placed to comment? The internet and its many forms of communication are powerful tools - you can say what you want and have people love and adore you, but you can also deeply offend and hurt people but saying things that you wouldn't say to their face. On a personal level I wasn't actually offended, but I know others who were.
Secondly, why is obesity more offensive to people than other eating disorders? What is it that makes the sight of flabby arms more offensive than bone-thin ones? I genuinely don't understand this. In some instances, the reasons for obesity are genuine psychological disorders.  We seem to feel sympathy for those starving themselves to death but not for those eating themselves to death. I find this interesting and would genuinely welcome thoughts on it.
Thirdly, I'm going to share a personal story. It's one I haven't shared with anyone to date. Hopefully, this may make just one person understand one reason for obesity more. I feel able to do this because I've taken the steps to address my own problems and I am confident and happy now. A lot of people aren't and need support rather than criticism.
I was always a pretty skinny kid, and we struggled quite a lot financially in my early years. My parents divorced when I was very young and we lived with my mum, seeing my Dad in holidays. Both my parents are wonderful and separating was the right thing for them to do.  As money was so scarce, it was impressed upon me at a really early age that I needed to clear my plate, that food was a privilege and that eating everything put in front of me was the right thing to do. So I did. Even aged 29 when given man-sized food portions.
I have only just managed to break that message. The things that we learn at a formative stage stay with us.
As a teenager I quite often had to cook my own meals whilst mum was working. Sadly, the only cooking I knew was with a frying pan so I made do with that. Eat bad food and clear your plate.
At school I was bullied about my weight, as I'd gained some 'puppy fat'. The stress of going to school was so extreme that I started to make myself sick.  I also lost weight.
At college I was really slim. I had an extremely unhealthy relationship with food, and ate rarely and often didn't look after myself properly.  I stayed slim throughout Uni, eating what I wanted and going clubbing twice a week! Learning to like myself a little.
And then I started work. And the weight started creeping on, with no clubbing to burn it off. And creeping on and creeping on.
Every now and then I'd try to lose weight, but immediately my old habits returned. Being sick. Not eating. Panic. I can't lose weight without hurting myself. It's healthier for me to be overweight.
I felt like this for years. And years. And it's taken me to the age of 30 to be able to break the psychology, the fear, the behaviours. And I'm sure it'll still be difficult from time to time before I get to where I want to be.
Fat people are lazy - I work bloody hard, have been headhunted for my last two jobs, and was a senior manager aged 27. If that's lazy, so be it. I can live with that.
Fat people are unattractive - I am marrying the most wonderful man in the world. He's loved me whatever size I've been. I still get asked out if I go out.  A person becomes more or less attractive by who they are and what they stand for.

I don't want sympathy and I don't expect this to impact anyone in particular.  I've come through the worst of my troubles and feel great for the first time. What I would hope is that people can start treating one another with some respect, and not be so crashingly judgemental of people without some understanding. I'm sure some obese people are lazy, eat rubbish, and don't care; but others are going through desperate struggles and should be supported.  If you are friends with someone, or care about them, don't say things that you know will disrespect and hurt them. If you wouldn't do it to someone anorexic why would you do it to someone obese?

I am interested in views on this so please post any constructive comments. Thank you for reading.
Betty - 13 lbs lighter since Easter and counting.

Friday, 27 May 2011

A large portion of honesty

So here we go. This is a tough post for me to write. I've not blogged for about 3 months anyway and I don't have a 'themed' blog - I'm not a HR blogger or a thirtysomething blogger - so I just write when the mood takes me, although sometimes I avoid it then too. However there seems to be something about writing a personal post that makes people respond positively to you. It happened when I wrote about my neighbour's cancer battle. She's doing pretty well by the way!

I'm writing because I feel like a fraud. And at the same time I feel inspired and positive. And it's time to get that out of my system.

A couple of people know that I've been losing weight recently. I'm what people politely call a 'big girl' - except I'm not that big because I'm short! And I've always been comfortable with being bigger.  Only one day I wasn't.

I was a thin child, a chubby teenager, a slim late teenager-early twentysomething, and then I started work. And put on about a stone a year after graduating thorugh having a hugely sedentary lifestyle, generally hating exercise, and loving all the bad food in the world; curry, cake, bread, sweets. Nomnom!!

So then one day I wasn't happy. I realised that people wouldn't want to sit next to me on a train because I may start encroaching on their seat. I realised I may not be able to have children easily (a friend of mine who is struggling though IVF keeps being told to lose weight...and it's so hard and it's not going well). I realised that it was ultimately going to be an unhappy way to live.

But I didn't know where to start or what to do. What do you do?!? You realise that you're so heavy that you don't think that you can ever lose weight. Do you don't see the point in trying. There's too much to do. It's too hard.

So I cheated. Or did I? You decide.

I signed up for three hynotherapy sessions. 

And since my first session, I have been shrinking. It's hard to explain.  My hypnotherapist decided that a low-carb eating plan would work well for me based on my current eating habits. So no bread, pasta, potatoes, rice etc. I would gain an interest in food nutrition. I'd stay under 60g of carbs a day.  There's a whole heap more than that - breaking previous eating habits in my head, changing my personal relationship with food - but that is the bottom hard line. And I don't break it, ever.

And it's working! The thought of eating bread or chips turns my stomach! I imagine feeling bloated, pained, awful.  I refused to weigh myself at the start of this so only did so at Easter, when I'd already lost noticeable weight and was feeling better. Since Easter I've lost 10lbs. Well on my way but a real way to go too. I don't want to eat unhealthy food. I don't want to feel how it makes me feel.

I felt I had to come clean after speaking with someone yesterday (you know who you are!) and being asked if I miss bread. And I said no, it's easy. And it is now! But that isn't normal is it?

So am I cheating? It's my mind that I've had manipulated but it was my mind that wanted to change. And I feel so much better about myself than I have done in years.  The difference is now is that although I know it will take time; although I know it won't always be easy, I now know that I can do this. I can lose weight, I can get healthy, I can feel good.

So if you feel that you are stuck and that you can't change - whatever the situation - just know that there is the strength and the fight in you and that you can have it drawn out, either by yourself or with help. Personally, I'm completely sold on hypnotherapy, and hope that this post can help just one person who was stuck in the mindset that I was in before.

I can't bring myself to tell a number of people who have seen me losing weight, because I'm concerned that they will judge me. How is cyberspace any better? God only knows, but it's time to share.

I expect some people to judge, but I hope that others will support.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The strange phenomenon of the 40mph driver

There is a strange phenomenon that has bothered me since I passed my driving test.  Surprisingly, that wasn't too long ago - only 3 years ago. It's amazed many people - and me, in hindsight - that I didn't learn before, seeing as I grew up in the arse end of nowhere, a place where buses ran only once a week, and only taking people return bus....

Anyway, despite being rebellious in some ways, in others I am disconcertingly law-abiding.  I have never driven under the influence of alcohol (I won't even have one drink if driving), I've never had a parking ticket, I've never been arrested, I don't take drugs....blah blah blah...and suffice it to say, I don't speed.

Part of this is growing up in a village and having various pets MURDERED by speeding maniacs mowing them down recklessly, but I also respect that those speed limits are there for a reason. I don't dawdle at 20mph, but I drive to the speed limit and that's that (give or take).

So I have realised that there is a curious breed of driver that I call the 40mph driver.  They drive only on A roads and B roads, and are incapable of driving faster or slower than 40mph. They are often old people or lorry drivers. Yes, always lorry drivers! And it does like this:

Betty driving along an A road at a respectable 55-60mph.  Gets stuck behind a car trundling along at 40mph. Betty gets a bit annoyed.  Then more annoyed. Especially as they BRAKE every damned time they go round a slight BEND in the road. What's that about?!?  So finally a village appears, speed limit drops to 30, Betty drops to 30...and the car ahead speeds off into the distance. At this point I'm thinking...WTF??? Village ends. I speed up. Within 1 minute have caught the car again. And so it goes and on and on and on.

I have no particular reason for writing this post apart from the fact that it annoys the living crap out of me and has done for years. Am I hallucinating this? Has anyone else experienced this? Also, how does one deal with these drivers?? I also hate middle lane 60mph drivers on motorways but they are easily dealt with in a way that makes me morally superior, but how to deal with this breed of cretin?? The 40mph driver??  You can't drive too close (not safe), you can't just keep with them because this means you speed through can't flash your lights at them...what can I do???

Report all the buggers that do this so that they get banned?? Never going to happen.

Please, please help!! We must rid the roads of these 40mph menaces!!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

From the heart...please don't judge

My next door neighbour is a wonderful woman. Over the past three years we've become good friends.  She's a lot of fun, kind and generous, and welcomed us to our new home by inviting us to her husband's 50th birthday party shortly after we moved in.  We've been firm friends since.  She and her husband are 20 years older than us but you wouldn't know it (I don't know if that's a reflection on us or them to be fair), and we've had many a fun evening in one another's company.

About 7 months ago she emailed me to tell me that she'd been diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus.  She was too upset at the time to speak on the phone.  

Whilst there are many things I'm poor at, I am quite good in a crisis. I waited a couple of days then turned up at hers with some flowers and let her cry on me whilst staying dry-eyed myself. She was relieved by that as all her longer-standing friends had been in floods of tears and it had made it worse for her. I stayed strong, then went home to my beloved and bawled my eyes out.

So on she went to chemo, and that made her so, so ill. I went with her for one session and stayed for hours.  The thought of that ward, with literally dozens of people all on their drips, stays with me. The nurses and doctors there are incredible. My neighbour jokingly calls it the 'milking shed' as she feels like one of dozens of cows!! The medical staff there love her, she's always laughing and joking with them.  But god she was ill. And we visited when she was well enough. And not long after it finished she was back up and partying again, twinkle back in her eyes, flirting in her wig!

Then her op. Huge op. Weeks in hospital. We fed their cats every day so her husband could stay all day with her. We had her husband over for New Years Eve so he could have a laugh. And as the weeks have gone on she's gotten stronger.

But the op hasn't gone as well as hoped. They didn't get everything.

So back to chemo for her starting again tomorrow, and I feel sick for her. She's been a complete inspiration to me since meeting her. And as she's been in the grip of this awful illness I've had further insights.  She'd always made out that them not having kids was through choice, but I know now her devastation at having an ectopic pregnancy. They'd have been amazing parents.   Still remembering my birthday despite everything going on. Wanting to hear about wedding plans.  And the job she does is amazing, protecting people and helping make our town safer.

I know, tragically, that the odds are stacked against her with her particular type of cancer and prognosis, and it kills me.

And yet, when I mention that she has cancer, the first thing people ask is 'does she smoke?'

Well yes, she does.  So what? Does that now mean that she deserves this? All the good that she does, that she deserves this awful illness that's making her physically shrink before my eyes?  It's a terrible conflict of emotion. She shouldn't be smoking and she knows that. But she basically has a death sentence hanging over her.

So please, I beg you, don't be someone who asks that question, or tuts if you hear of someone who smokes getting cancer.  This disease could affect one in three of us anyway, smoking or not. My friend does GOOD for people, she's kind and warm, and if this illness takes her, something huge will be missing from my life.

I sit here writing this and praying that some kind of miracle takes place over the next few weeks. I'll go to chemo with her and hold her hand and laugh about how silly our men and cats are, and plan my wedding, the wedding that I desperately want her to be able to come to next year.

Please don't judge those who are suffering with cancer.  Please spare a thought for my friend and hope that things get better so that we can sit together and share that bottle of rum we brought her back from holiday, so that her husband (also lovely), doesn't have to grow old without her. 

I fucking hate cancer.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Roast Potatoes!!

OK so I recently loving blogged on the virtues of the perfect bacon sarnie, seeing as we now have an #ilovebacon fanclub on Twitter!!  Today, I think that I made the perfect tray of roast potatoes! Naturally I've been trying to do this since learning how to cook a roast dinner, so I thought that I'd share the recipe but also encourage you to tell me yours. I've been amused this evening looking at different roast potato methods and am always trying to improve!!

Spuds: Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Heritage potatoes for roasting.  Cut the spuds into egg-sized chunks
Put in pan, wash through a couple of times, cover with boiling water and a sprinking of rock salt, bring to boil and par boil for about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, add two tablespoons of semolina to a bowl.  Season generously with ground rock salt, freshly milled black pepper, and half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Drain spuds thoroughly, return to pan and shake to rough the edges. Sprinkle over the semolina and shake again to coat the spuds evenly.
Add three tablespoons of goose fat to the oven (about 200 degrees c) and heat until smoking.  Add the spuds and baste them in the goosefat. Turn after 20 minutes and chuck in three cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
Turn again after 15 minutes.
Check again after 10
They should be golden and crispy and delicious.
Nom nom nom!!

How do you cook yours??

Thursday, 27 January 2011

F is for...

Tomorrow I get an exam result for my CIPD qualification.  Due to work issues at the time, the likelihood is that I've not passed! But I am turning my mind to my studies for the first time probably since the exam.
Studying anything whilst working full time is pretty tough. You have to be verrrry motivated and self-disciplined. I travel a lot with work too, so choosing to study on top of this really impacts on my home life.
So it has to be something that means a lot.
I've been studing my CIPD for two years. If I fail this exam, I have two to retake in May (work permitting), my management case report, and my electives.
The CIPD, in its infinate wisdom, has changed the course structure part-way through.
My college currently has no start dates for the electives that I need to take.  In my last tutorial, the tutor mentioned that the tutors haven't been told the course structure or content.  There may not be exams.
This means that I'll have to take exams that are no longer considered valid to complete my qualification.
I can't complete my final year until....? no date yet.
I have, in two years, not learned anything that I have applied in my workplace.
Scary. (that could be seen as a reflection on me rather than the course though!)
So I'm going to have to put in for at least one exam in the next week, maybe two, that may no longer be part of the CIPD qualification.  I have to do a management report about something that doesn't interest me but fits in with my tutor's areas of specialism.  And I have to wait til God knows when to complete my studies.
Tell me now, honestly, if you got the results and got a big fat F - would you, given this knowledge, honestly put in to retake the exams?
It seems to me that the CIPD needs to sort itself out, and sharpish.  More to the point, do I still really need a CIPD qualification to progress my career? What can this qualification currently be worth if two thirds of it are already out of date?
It's time that the CIPD realised the impact of their decisions on those who embarked on the programme with a genuine desire to learn and broaden their horizons.
All I want to do now is stick that F.....

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A simple tale to bring you cheer

In between all the philosophising and rhetoric of blogging, I thought I'd take this opportunity to tell a simple tale which will hopefully bring a smile to the lips of the few that read it. Goodness knows it's a miserable time of year, so a smirk at my stupidity may cheer you up

It was last week, a workday evening, and I arrived home from work after a trying day. I was on the phone ranting with a colleague as I let myself into the house. One thing struck me as weird. The door between the kitchen and living room was closed. We always leave this open. Still on the phone, I walked in and encountered Mr B sat on the sofa wearing coat and hat and with the fire on. I gave him a confused look and walked back into the kitchen. He followed me, glared, and pointedly closed the door. To which I carried on ranting on the phone and walked back into the living room. He followed me, closed the door and glared again. I ignored him again, went back into the kitchen to check the status of dinner (he was cooking, natch).  Again, he followed me, closing the door and glaring.  By which stage I realised I couldn't be bothered with his weirdness, so I decided to get changed. I walked upstairs, still on the phone, whilst taking my suit trousers off (not best practice health and safety).  On reaching the top of the stairs, trousers in hand, I walked into the bathroom.........only to encounter the British Gas man mending our boiler!

I ran out of the bathroom and locked myself in the spare room (why?? Why???) - explained to my colleague (still on the phone!) what had happened! She was caught between being appalled at me being trouserless on the phone to her, and wetting herself laughing at what had just happened.

Ending the call, I rushed back downstairs and asked Mr B why he hadn't told me the gas man was there! Or screeched, to be fair.  His calm (and slightly laughing) response was.
1.....I told you the gas man was coming Tuesday evening (whatever, that was at least a day ago, I have a head like a sieve)'s in the calendar (so I'm supposed to read the calendar every morning, digest its contents and remember it, hmm??)
3....why do you think I'm still wearing my hat and coat?? It's freezing in here! (yes, but I have the warmth of rage - I feel no cold!!0
4.....why do you think I was keeping the door shut?? To stop the cat getting shut in the airing cupboard again like she was last time the gas man came! (I still think that was deliberate - how can you miss a giant tabby cat?? Bastard)
5....did you not notice the British Gas van parked outside the bloody house???

....answer, no, I did not, I was on the phone and ranting.

And here is the lesson in this.

Always check for vans parked outside your house before removing your clothes whilst ranting on the phone.